Update: Russell’s family welcomes any memories or stories you wish to share with them. Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to request the Russell family’s email.
It is with great sadness that we report long-time Bicycle Coalition Board Secretary, bike share advocate, and community activist Russell Meddin passed away the morning of April 14th.
Russell’s involvement with the Bicycle Coalition started in 2004 when he helped launch and implement the campaign to save “grade-level” access between Center City and Schuylkill Banks by building a coalition of groups around the City. He played an instrumental role in advocating for crossings over the CSX tracks that is today used by more than a million people a year. Ultimately, he joined the Board in 2010 to pursue his passion, bringing bike share to Philadelphia.
The CSX campaign was formidable. Starting in 2004, CSX was threatening to wall off the park. Russell along with his neighbors Rob Stuart and Sarah Clark Stuart, Andy Toy, Perry Benson, Sam Little and Alex Doty took on CSX with the formation of the Schuylkill River Park Alliance. The organization ran a effective beta-digital campaign that eventually led to a legal settlement between the City and CSX to allow for the construction of electronic control gate rail crossings (the first of their kind in North America) and a pedestrian bridge from Schuylkill River Park. It was the pursuit of funding for the pedestrian bridge that led to the application for funding to build trail segments that resulted in the $23Million TIGER grant, which in turn led to the branding of the Circuit Trails.
Russell was well-known in his neighborhood for cleaning graffiti off walls on his own, leading neighborhood clean ups, helping to organize the neighborhood’s Halloween party and numerous other civic ventures. He became involved in Mural Arts, for whom he led mural bike tours. He was a Democratic Committee Person in the 8th Ward for over a decade and was on the board of Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and the Reading Terminal Market for many years. He held court at the RTM for over 25 years on Saturday mornings with a tight knit group of close friends.
Russell biggest footprint on bicycle advocacy was his work to bring bike share to Philadelphia, as well archiving and following trends in bike share around the world.
In 2006, Russell Meddin visited France and the city of Lyon. He saw bike sharing station when he got off the train. Their system is called “Vélo’v.” He asked a friend of his who was there at the time and she said using a Vélo’v bike was the fastest way of getting around Lyon and everyone loved it.
So, in 2007, Meddin founded Bike Share Philadelphia, an advocacy group devoted to bringing a public use biking to Philadelphia. While today bike share programs are in many US cities, it was not that way in 2007. Meddin began working with different organizations and people in Philadelphia (including John Boyle of BCGP) to make Bike Share Philadelphia happen.
That year, Paris introduced its bike share program, which was then the largest in the world and New York City had a public use bicycling exhibition as well. Meddin and the rest of Bike Share Philadelphia held a forum to educate Philadelphians about public use bike share. Many individuals and organizations contributed to putting on the forum.
After the forum, City Council passed a resolution to implement a bike share program and conduct a feasibility study.
While the study was being conducted and written, BSP encouraged residents to write to the city government and tell them how much they wanted a bike share program. By the time the study was delivered to city council, two thousand letters and emails had been sent.
By 2014, the city was ready to submit a Request for Proposal or RFP for a system vendor and operator for a bike share program in Philadelphia. Finally, in April 2015, Philadelphia had its bike share program.
For Meddin, this was the realization of a dream to bring bike share to Philly.
Russell wanted everyone to have a station as close to their house as possible and a station as close as possible to wherever they want to go. We believe his dream will be realized. He left a huge legacy in Philadelphia and he will be sorely missed. He leaves behind his wife Joan Rosoff, daughter Elisabeth Meddin and son Alexandre Meddin.
Condolences can be mailed to his family at 2118 Race St., Philadelphia 19103.
Grateful for this touching, affectionate remembrance of a one-of-a-kind advocate. To those who knew him, it all comes through and is well captured. Appropriately, the focus here is on bicycle advocacy, which is surely where his heart lay, his ever-present green day-glo bicycle lapel pin providing running testimony. But residents of the Logan Square area will also know him for his involvement in all manner of advocacy for the unique attributes of this neighborhood, from zoning, to large event management (think the Parkway), to local governance, for his fixture status at the polling station every election at 20th and Race. My last conversation with Russell was an extended one as he was my lunch mate at the most recent Vision Zero conference. At any gathering where the gains by cycling advocates are celebrated, Russell’s passing will surely be noted as a big loss.
A sad loss indeed to the Cycling Community. RIP.
I was saddened to read this. Russell was the cornerstone of a quirky family of people who believed passionately in bike sharing, long before it came to the US or was a fast-growing industry – back when the idea of bike sharing was a radical one and largely reserved for idealist kooks. We joked he was Uncle Russell. He knew everything about it – not because it was his job or because he even wanted a job, but because he just saw the inherent beauty and value to society of a simple shared bike. He was a true believer and I’m glad he got to see this idea grow so much. He’ll be missed, and we’ll all do well to remember the optimism and idealism that inspired him to work in bike sharing.
I was saddened yesterday to hear of Russell’s passing from a friend yesterday. Russell worked tirelessly to make Philadelphia a better place and was was an early and continually strong voice in bringing bike share to the USA and Philadelphia. I met Russell while working on bicycle related projects in Philadelphia around 208-2009 and was taken in by his energy and commitment to bringing better biking to the City. When I would travel to Philly, I would always try to schedule a Coffee with Russell to catch up, learn what was really happening in the City and just have a nice time. He will be missed.
I will miss him forever. May we carry on with sharing his open mindset fueled by his extreme curiosity and an extraordinary direct kindness by promoting “The Meddin Bikesharing World Map”. https://bikesharingworldmap.com/
I apologise for being so late with my memories of Russell.
Once met never forgotten and a true inspiration toBike Share enthusiasts. To receive one of his pin badges was a high honour. A true enthusiast and inspirational bike share character.
Catching up with all the bike share gossip on his visits was a tremendous delight.